June 4, 2001 – Boxing must say goodbye to one of the greatest exponents of the sweet science. Joey Maxim, Hall of Famer, former light-heavyweight champion of the world and the only man in history to have beaten Sugar Ray Robinson inside the distance, passed away over the weekend at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Florida. He was 79.
The Cleveland, Ohio legend died on Saturday, after never having recovered from a stroke that struck him down four months ago. His two daughters had him flown to Florida so they could be near him at the end.
Born Giuseppe Antonio Berardinelli on March 28,1922, the fighter with the rapid-fire style aptly took his ring name from a machine gun. Maxim is almost universally remembered for his collision with world championship lexicon Ray Robinson of almost half a century ago. On June 25, 1952 the original (and best) boxing Sugarman, who swept aside the welterweight and middleweight divisions, launched an assault for Maxim’s 175lbs title at New York’s Yankee Stadium.
But Robinson lost.
In the searing New York heat, which soared well over 100 degrees and was so strength sapping referee Ruby Goldstein passed out and had to be relieved by a second official, Maxim inflicted the only inside the distance defeat of Robinson’s 202 bout career. Maxim was behind on points going into the 13th round, but the challenger, who was carrying a lot more bodyweight than the flashy Robinson, was declared the winner when a totally spent challenger was forced to withdraw.
Boxing historians usually blame the scorching heat for Robinson’s defeat but as Maxim himself stated in 1997: “It was hot on my half of the ring, too.”
But Maxim did more than out-tough Robinson to earn his place among the boxing immortals in the Hall of Fame. The slick box-fighter retired in 1958 with an impressive 82-29-4 (21) record which was punctuated by some of the biggest names of his era. He won the light-heavyweight world title (for in those days there was only one) on foreign soil, stopping champion Freddie Mills in 10 rounds in their London clash of January 1950.
In his career, Maxim beat the likes of world heavyweight title challenger Henry Cooper, world heavyweight kings Jersey Joe Walcott and Floyd Patterson, fellow Ohio Hall of Famer Jimmy Bivins, and Gus Lesnevich. He also unsuccessfully challenged Ezzard Charles for the world heavyweight title in 1951, lasting the full 15 round distance despite the weight discrepancy.
After retirement, Maxim became a greeter for Las Vegas hotels and casinos. He is survived by two daughters, six grandchildren, four siblings and his 97-year-old mother, Henrietta Berardinelli.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994, Maxim’s contribution will not be forgotten.